September 1, 2019 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 197

The US-Taliban Negotiations: A Deadly Qatari Trap

September 1, 2019 | By Yigal Carmon*
Qatar | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 197

What is happening in Afghanistan is already beyond grief. The United States is negotiating with the Taliban, without the Taliban first agreeing to a cease-fire as a precondition for talks, and although President Trump has emphatically announced his determination to withdraw from the country, American soldiers are still being killed (in the last ten days, three American servicemen died) leaving their families in mourning.[1] How did the Americans land in a situation where their troops are constantly hounded by the Taliban, instead of simply being allowed to peacefully return home?

One can understand President Trump's wish to leave Afghanistan. Whether the US can sustain its strategic and economic leadership in the context of an isolationist policy, is a legitimate debate. But this is the president's and Congress's purview. However, even if one opts for isolationism, there are ways to leave without losing people, respect, allies and more. But the way Mr. Trump is doing this is the worst possible way: instead of leaving unilaterally, while reinforcing the democratically elected government in Kabul without boots on the ground, he is empowering his Taliban enemy by protracted negotiations, where America makes successive concessions and ultimately throws its Afghan allies under the bus.[2] Afghan officials are the first to sense that the sellout of the Kabul government is impending, and are scurrying to defect to the Taliban, (in July alone there were 800 defections).[3]


Why negotiate with an enemy, who has no interest in anything but an American withdrawal and will not pay anything for such a withdrawal, but on the contrary, will exact payment for each day the Americans remain until they exit with their tails between their legs. Apparently, the president and his administration are oblivious to this basic and painful truth. Indeed, according to leaks to the media, the Americans are trying to negotiate with the Taliban a dialogue with the elected Kabul government. However the prospects that this scenario will pan out, even if the Taliban sign on the dotted line is equivalent to the wolf engaging in democratic dialogue with the sheep after the shepherd has abandoned the scene. President Trump insists that the Taliban promise not to attack the US following its departure. The Taliban can definitely affix their empty signature because in the Middle East the forces of evil employ proxies. Like the Iranians, the Taliban can be seemingly uninvolved, but then 9/11 was hatched in Afghanistan by Muslim-Arab Al-Qaeda members.

Who blinded otherwise shrewd and goal-oriented people from Mr. Trump on down to believe that they would gain anything other than casualties and humiliation from these negotiations? Why do they prefer to overlook the public announcements by the Taliban such as: " the reason behind war… in Afghanistan is the presence of Americans forces and it will only find an end when American forces leave Afghanistan."[4] The answer (surprise) is again Qatar, which talked the U.S. administration into this self-destructive process. The administration bought into it on the assumption that a country that built and hosts the CENTCOM base is perforce an ally with shared interests and therefore its recommendations must be benevolent and bona fide. Little do they understand – Qatar is an enemy in allied clothing – and its interests are antithetical to America's.

If this is the case, why would an enemy – Qatar – host the most important American base in the region? As opposed to what many Americans think, Qatar did the US no favors in building the base in the mid-1990s. It needed an American base for its own self-protection and this dependence still persists. Without this base, this Lilliputian energy Gulliver would be taken over by its neighbors (whether Iranian or Saudi) within a day. The US military establishment ignores this reality to its own detriment, and behaves as if America is in Qatar's debt rather than the reverse.

Qatar protects itself not only by enlisting America but by supporting every major terrorist organization: the Muslim Brotherhood (it hosts their chief inciter for terror, Sheikh Yusef Al-Qaradhawi) and its offshoots such as Al-Qaeda and now the Taliban in order to buy protection for the ruling Aal-Thani clan. It also sustains Muslim governments antagonistic to America such as Erdogan's Turkey. The Aal-Thani family-owned Al-Jazeera news network has for decades served as an efficient weaponized media outlet targeting the US and its interests in the region and beyond.[5] According to Richard A. Clarke, National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism in the Clinton and Bush (43) administrations, the previous Qatari Emir, father of the current one, personally snatched from the Americans an arch-terrorist named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, (who plotted terror attacks against America) and spirited him away from Qatar to foil his arrest by the Americans, thus enabling him to mastermind the 9-11 attacks a few years later. Clarke concluded: "Had the Qataris handed him over to us as requested in 1996, the world might have been a very different place."[6]

However, the Qataris won Trump's friendship the same way they purchase anything in the West from think tanks to World Cup competitions. They insinuated themselves into his good graces by promising a reported 85 billion dollars for rehabilitating America's infrastructure. President Trump's eagerness for American jobs and prosperity fed his enthusiasm for the Qatari emir: "Tamim, you've been a friend of mine for a long time, before I did this presidential thing, and we feel very comfortable with each other... Investments that you make in the United States -- one of the largest in the world -- but the investments that you make are very much appreciated. And I know the planes you're buying and all of the other things you're investing in. And I view it differently; I view it as jobs. Because for me, it's jobs. And today, we set a new record for jobs. We're setting it almost on a daily basis."[7]

Even more mind boggling is Qatar's ability to buy off the US military on the cheap by expanding the Al-Udeid base on its dime to allow more comfortable housing for the servicemen's families, and no American commander has arisen to challenge the price in American blood and honor for Doha's largesse. Instead, we get Brigadier General Daniel H. Tulley, the Al-Udeid base commander, besotted with this manna from Doha, cluelessly saying: "It never ceases to amaze Americans how gracious our hosts are here".[8] Years ago, a senior administration official explained to me why the US turns a blind eye to Qatar's nefarious activities. "We have in the Al-Udeid base total freedom of operations," he said. "The Al-Udeid base is like a USAFB in Alabama." This too is no longer true; Qatar is already threatening to limit potential operations against Iran from Al-Udeid, should they be needed,[9] and Qatar's Tamim told Rouhani that "only countries [placed] along the coast [of the Persian Gulf] should keep security in the region".[10] One can imagine the Qatari ruling family laughing in the safety of their US-protected palace inner sancta, and prizing their good fortune in having such useful idiots as allies and protectors.

* Yigal Carmon is the President and founder of MEMRI


[1] Belatedly, only after the continuous killing of American soldiers by the Taliban after all signs pointed to an imminent deal. Khalilzad awoke to tell the Taliban "violence like this must stop.", September 1, 2019;, August 28, 2019. Has the chief US negotiator forgotten that the Taliban has long demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign troops in order to "end the occupation" of Afghanistan and that there will be no ceasefire until a US troop withdrawal?, August 13, 2019.

[2] In addition to agreeing to the conduct of negotiations under fire, the US: 1. Agreed to exclude the elected Afghan government from the talks (this belies Khalilzad's claim in footnote 3 that the US will not throw Kabul under the bus). 2. Absolved the Taliban of being a terror organization and extended this blanket absolution to any terror organization worldwide operating within a specific territory. 3. Agreed in principle to release 10,000 Taliban terrorists in exchange for 3,000 abducted Afghan officials, and 4. Totally ignored the Taliban declaration that elections are un-Islamic thus rendering a possible Taliban signature on a clause mandating democratic dialogue with the Afghan government a dead letter.

[3] (Afghanistan), August 10, 2019. Indeed Zalmay Khalilzad, the US negotiator with the Taliban has recently tweeted that "We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement w/ the Talibs" @US4AfghanPeace, August 26, 2019. The facts on the ground belie such assurances. The US has acquiesced to a veritable Taliban embassy in Doha, the ultimate brushoff to the Kabul government.

[4] (Afghanistan), August 26, 2019.

[5] For a recapitulation of Qatar's double dealing featuring its weaponized Al-Jazeera network see: MEMRI Daily Brief No. 146, Qatar The Emirate That Fools Them All, And Its Enablers, January 18, 2018

[7], July 9, 2019.

[8], August 25, 2019.

[9] Ibid.

[10] (Iran), August 12, 2019.

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